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6th ACA conference opens in Banjul

Sep 21, 2011, 1:23 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh & Halimatou Ceesay

Over 300 cashew growers from across the African continent gathered in the Gambian capital city of Banjul Tuesday for the 6th annual conference of the African Cashew Alliance, which among others seeks to discuss and map out ways of maximizing impacts for people and communities across Africa.

The conference which opened yesterday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel under the theme: “Bringing the Cashew World Together” is expected to offer more services, networking opportunities, new social events and the launch of the first World Cashew Expo, an exhibition of cashew processing equipment and service providers.

The four-day conference will showcase the continent’s strategic role in the world market.

With close proximity to major markets, an annual yield of 180,000 MT, and high quality of nuts, The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea?Bissau (SEGABI) region is ideal for stakeholders to identify new investment opportunities, and expand their cashew business.

Declaring the conference open, the minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Abdou Colley, underscored the importance of the conference.

“We are familiar with most of the challenges facing the cashew industry, and which affect the industry’s contribution to economic growth and development. The sector is characterized by small rural farmers with low yields, poor quality nuts and lack of business skills with consequential effects on their earnings. There is also little processing capabilities resulting in the low level of processing of cashew in Africa,” he said.

According to him, recent developments in the global cashew industry are promising and demonstrate the industry’s potential to revolutionize the agriculture sector in Africa. Recent statistics demonstrate that the cashew crop is increasingly an important cash crop in Africa, and thus giving us a renewed fight against poverty.

He told delegates across the African continent that the potential of cashew for Africa is enormous as world production hardly meets a continuously rising and highly-prized demand in Europe, North America, China and India.

He revealed that it was estimated that nearly 40% of the global cashew is produced by about 2.5 million small farmers in Africa, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas.

Trade minister Kolley added that the main challenge facing the sector is how to enable these smallholder farmers who struggle to make as little as Euro 90 to 330 per year, and who rarely organize themselves into associations, take advantage of the industry’s huge potential.

“Therefore, every effort must be made to develop the industry supply chain as this would go a long way in lifting a significant portion of our population out of poverty. In effect, agriculture in general provides 25 to 35 percent of Africa’s gross domestic product, 60 percent of total employment and remains the main source of income for people living in the rural areas,” he told delegates.

Momodou A. Ceesay, President of the Cashew Alliance of The Gambia who is also the Managing Director Gambia Horticultural Enterprise, highlighted the achievements of the Cashew Alliance of The Gambia and its contribution to the Gambian economy.

According to him, there has been tremendous increase in production in the last five years with an estimated total tonnage in 2011 of about 20, 000 tonnes from 6, 000 tonnes.

He revealed that with new planting coming on stream coupled with the good climatic conditions, his association estimates close to 25, 000 tonnes in the next cashew season.

“The growing cashew sector in The Gambia is predicated purely on the commercial viability of the product, the dynamism of the private sector and the tremendous support of the Government of the Gambia,” he said, noting that the Gambia this year exported some 65, 000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts thanks to the conducive business environment and efficient seaport.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony was Idrisa Kilangi, President of the African Cashew Alliance, who said the conference, among others, seeks to provide an opportunity for participants to directly engage with experts and companies along the value chain, and make an active contribution on the development of specific themes of their interest.

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